Thoughts on the Passing of Joseph Cropsey

I hope I’m not doing a disservice by writing these brief remarks as late as I am; however, the passing of Professor Joseph Cropsey warranted some small mention of appreciation from one of the many people Dr. Cropsey influenced. ?Dr. Cropsey was introduced to me when my college professor thrust History of Political Philosophy into my hands and said, “If you truly appreciate political philosophy, get this. ?It is the ‘bible.'” ?My copy (third edition; still looking to grab one of the earlier ones as well) sits beside my laptop as I type. ?It is a thick tome. ?The thoughts and writings inside, edited by Drs. Strauss and Cropsey, even thicker; requiring concentration and thought as you read, and re-read, and underline, and read once more.

News of Dr. Cropsey’s passing immediately spurred thoughts of Goethe’s passing in my mind. ?Goethe was on his deathbed with his daughter-in-law sitting by his side. ?Wanting another shutter in his room opened by one of the servants, Goethe is said to have called, ?more light! before his ties to this world were severed by Father Time’s scythe.

“More light!”

Allan Bloom said, “Education is the movement from darkness into light.” ?Joseph Cropsey spent his life helping pilgrims on their way from darkness into light. ?He started out much more economically-minded by writing at lengths about Adam Smith and Karl Marx. ?His writings on Plato, however, are considerable food for thought. ?Very, very rich food. ?Some people can stomach it, others might prefer something lighter. ?Nevertheless, one of the subjects Cropsey looks at is the human condition, as Peter Lawler stated in his comments on Postmodern Conservative, “our wondering and our wondering” in Plato’s World: Man’s Place in the Cosmos.??Here’s to hoping that his departure gave him what all philosophers long for: ?More Light!

 

-rj

Two Republics

America does not have a right to exist. America is simply a collection of ideals bound together by the belief that men have inalienable rights that can neither be taken nor given. However, the thing about inalienable rights is that one must buy into this belief that they can neither be taken nor given. When this belief set is no longer held, man will allow themselves to be bound to those that they are willing to allow to enslave them. Inalienable rights are a foundation. And on that foundation are built further principles into the system of governance defined by our founding fathers. A system of self-governance rather than tyrannical rule is the next precept that follows in American’s philosophy of inalienable rights. The methodology of self-governance builds upon the ideology of inalienable rights by way of allowing citizenry to vote or select representation that maintains that the passage of laws governing the tribes of the land will not inflict harm on what are believed to be ideals that man cannot give or take away. But when these rights are no longer found at the core of the citizenries ideology, or the model of self-governance turns toward tyranny and forces rule upon its citizens without choice, the Republic is not failing it has already fallen.

In what is now considered the latter days of the Roman Republic, the citizens of Italy and the government were in a state of turmoil. The growth of the Republic brought with it great wealth and acquisitions, but it brought a tremendous divide and began creating factions in the political system. The largest of the dividing factions consisted of “old money” families with great fortunes as well as various classes and land owners whose main desire was for the continuation of the Roman State known as the Optimates. The other largest faction consisted of families with political power that began to amass the poor or “the mob” as support. This second faction used social issues to manipulate the lower classes for their bidding. This group, known at the Populares had only political ambition at their disposal, and used the needs and desires of the common man to gain a foothold and political capital.

At the center of the Populares movement were two brothers, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, often referred to as The Gracchi. The Gracchi began social programs and influenced the passage of social regulation that slowly began eating out the heart of the Republic and created a snow ball effect of consequences to the economic and social system. The growth of the Republic required new recruits. But social policy said that the Legion could not take recruits that were landless. And land owners were not entering the military because the economic system was forcing small farms into failure. Rich land owners would then buy up these farms and continue to prosper. While those that did not own land were not allowed to be recruited by the Legion to have a chance to turn their life around and make something out of themselves. Furthermore, these landless individuals were no longer hired by landowners because the landowners could import slaves at a cheaper rate. The result was Romans across the middle and lower classes out of work. Because of the lack of small farms food supplies began to run short. The solution to these problems became more government involvement, more social programs, and attempts at greater government power.

The Gracchi are credited with the foundations of socialism and populism. Their time is considered the period of the fall of the Roman Republic and the institution of the Caesars and the Roman Empire. The only reason that history exists is that one learns from it. The situation in the Roman Republic is as different as it is similar to the Republic of the United States of America. But the time line is intriguing. America has not always been at the forefront as a world leader. In fact for the majority of her lineage she has been relatively shut off from most world events, or arguably at least events outside of her hemisphere. It was really not until we as a people came out of World War II victorious, our country unscathed and our factories and people ready to work and help rebuild Europe that we emerged as a first world power. And in the last 60 years we have slowly forgotten the lessons of history. We have built up our social programs, we have awarded the lazy, we have punished diligence and hard work, we punish prosperity, and we even punish our citizens for dying. We redistribute because life is not fair. We create programs to create work to provide citizens benefits and when those programs do not create jobs we simply enforce benefits through taxation without choice.

When the people allow their government to forget the social contract between them, the system is broken. When the citizens speak out against their government and the government ignores the will of the people and responds in tyranny that, “We’re going through the gate, if the gate is closed, we’ll go over it, if it’s too high, we’ll pole vault over it, and if it’s even higher, we’ll parachute in,” the system is not broken, the Republic has fallen. The next six months are potentially some of the most important in our nation’s history. It is time we learn from past, retake our country, and rebuild the Republic.

-nick

Originally published at The Daily Caller.

George Will Gives Great CPAC Speech

Thanks to AllahPundit for this three-part speech.

Up Frum Conservatism Pt. II

I began this thread addressing the issue of Conservatives that were acting neither ?conservatively? nor even making any attempt to reconcile the many factions forming in the movement.? Mr. David Frum was the person I used as the vanguard of this particular predisposition mainly because of the advent of his NewMajority.Com.? Also, I found his name a delightful play on words and figured it would be appreciated by those of my acquaintances that were, and still are, William F. Buckley fans.? Mainly it was the former point that I sought to address, because I felt like I was bearing witness to a growing faction within the Conservative movement that sought to ?reform Conservatism? as though it were a party to be reformed.? It is slightly comical to me, that anyone calling themselves a Conservative can think this way if they are aware of Mr. Russell Kirk?s laments on the issue of conservatism as a movement in a party.? Conservative is a state of mind, being a Republican is a vehicle.? You cannot reform Conservatism, therefore what I believe Mr. Frum truly intends to do is to re-brand it as ?Republicanism.??

??????????? Conservatives and Republicans alike feel slighted by the recent regime that left power a mere six months prior.? Conservatives are of course divided further into the various principles they adhere to.? Neoconservatives are much kinder to President Bush, and easily ready the defenses against the gauntlet of attacks from Paleoconservatives, libertarians, liberals and mainstreamers.? Talk about President Obama?s ?blank slate,? President Bush was a champion of natural rights for those around the world by some; the advocate of unmitigated military expeditions by others.? He was a New World Order member hell bent on the destruction of the state sovereign in favor of a North American Union; and he was the Carl Schmittian disciple that put state above all and practiced the true international form of politics with a Hobbesian approach to state affairs and reckless disregard for the UN and international community.? He was an unapologetic radical Conservative by moderates; and a tax-cut and spend moderate Republican by Conservatives.? One got a very similar George W. Bush speaking to leftist rappers like Immortal Technique as they did rightist Conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones.? A convoluted portrait, as if Picasso were hired to have painted it to adorn the halls of the White House (I imagine something like this, you know, representing a Cowboy hat and such); A momentous digression, but interesting to point out to ?Bush Haters? nonetheless.? Either way, to be conservative is a reference of mind while being a Republican is the vehicle for action.? Mr. Frum and others on NewMajority seem to want to turn conservatism into something it?s not at the national level: a party.

??????????? Mr. Frum?s, and others?, actions are not malicious in that they are trying to ruin conservatism as some would suggest.? The NewMajority site claims to want to build a ?conservatism that can win again,? taking the bite out of standing on principles, and turning conservatism into a pragmatic arm of the Republican Party.? Here in lies Mr. Frum?s misunderstanding because as I have said before, Conservatism is a state of mind for people that may occupy the Republican or Democratic Parties (it happens to make up more of the Republican Party than Democratic, though I cannot see how one reconciles their conservatism with the Democratic Party of today as Henry ?Scoop? Jacksons or Zell Millers could in their day).? Conservatism, per se, is claimed by those who abhor it as an ideology.? It is contra to that notion, because conservatism was supposed to be the anti?ideal.? Conservatism is not a neat package.? At times I find people trying to argue this to Mr. Frum, or others on his website; but their plights seemingly fall on deaf ears.? They argue that they stand on principles, but the Republicans ask them to make their principles more malleable, ask for Conservatives to be more Republican because Republicans can win.? That?s like saying ?if you outlaw guns, only outlaws have guns.?? Yes, the only the Republicans can win because they are part duex currently of a two-party system.? But Republicans have been losing as of the past half a decade, which has caused a stir and focused the limelight on the Conservative movement that led the party to its zenith since its inception.? The prescription for Republicans? recent ill-health has been to blame the Conservatives and try to get Conservatives to ?open up;? which is the wrong strategy.

??????????? One could go on about the policies under President Bush and the then-controlled Republican congress, and how they did not live up to Conservatives? expectations and it cost the Republicans.? I will spare you the lecture, as there is little of that horse?s decayed carcass left to beat.? Rather, to borrow a term from my dear friend Tom, I will take the route of a ?forward-looking Conservative? and expound on my last paragraph by reaching back and taking some of the past principles that deserve to come with us into the new millennium.? There are two tenets to the Conservative movement that are strong and can help the Republican Party gain prominence (maybe not a majority, but being steamrolled by an Executive-Legislative tyranny of the majority is time and space we currently inhabit, and frankly it sucks): fiscal Conservatism and Social Conservatism.?

??????????? Fiscal Conservatism is a boring topic in my eyes.? Economics is a rambunctious beast that can be tamed through myriad means.? It is circumscribed by the actions of the market forces, or by government.? One keeps it chained so that it can move about within the confines of an open space while still being contained within the boundaries set by other outside forces so it cannot run off.? The latter keeps the beast caged; unable to attain any inkling of freedom, it is stifled by the iron confines of government completely.? During the last generation, we saw that the forces that generally tend to keep economics chained in the yard let the Cujo loose because they felt his total freedom and depravity would lead to unmitigated growth and prosperity.? Cujo was his by a truck.? Now our economy occupies the oppressive cage in the vet clinic, while Dr. Obama and his Technicians seek a treatment.? There is a complete lack of freedom now, which will not help our situation either because our economy will not grow at all.? Furthermore, our President has decided to overzealously pursue all of the drastic changes he campaigned for in his first year while he has the most political capital.? This has brought out the fiscal conservative in the average citizen.? Anderson Cooper can make sexual jokes about the Tea Parties, and ?conservatives? can deride the Tea Party protestors all they want; but there is a spirit and a fight in these people that can help the party.? Recent trends demonstrate a growing unease regarding President Obama?s spending and budget, and a new Gallup Poll shows that Americans are becoming increasingly conservative regarding the size and power of the national government.? This Gallup Poll released other preliminary numbers showing more Americans classifying themselves as ?Conservative? which now hovered at 40%, and David Frum was quick to squelch our optimism with his The Week piece? in which he makes the important argument that 40% won?t win elections.? He leaves out that we witnessed an impressive growth in self described ?Conservatives? at a time when the label and brand have been lambasted by the liberal media since 2006.? The Conservatives in the Republican Party need to act Conservative about spending, and the problems that arise from this are two fold: 1) history has not erased the fact that Republicans spent like drunken-sailors under President Bush and 2) it makes us the ?party of ?no??.? It is important that men and women like Mr. Frum continue doing what they are best at, molding Republican policies to be more Conservative.? How can we accomplish what we want by spending less, or incentivizing better behavior??

??????????? The second ?type? of conservatism was the one that took the most grief by their counterparts in the movement (libertarians) and liberals alike: the social Conservatives.? Being socially conservative can be broadly defined, but we imagine white bible-thumpers from the south.? While a lot of white southerners demonstrate a deep attachment to their faith and abiding by the teachings of that faith, we cannot let social conservatism be defined this way.? What about the black families that have strong values and a sense of tradition?? What about Hispanics who tend to be Catholic and also possess phenomenal family values?? There are a lot of pundits that dwell on hating social conservatives and deriding the party for failing to rake in more non-WASPs, but fall short in addressing the problem of attracting minorities on a foundation of social conservatism and family values.? Another Gallup Poll demonstrated America?s move into a Pro-Life direction, more Americans were self described as Pro-Life over Pro-Choice for the first time ever.? This is despite the fact that it is inherently an up-hill battle for a ?pro-life? movement because of our basic beliefs in curtailing what we view as government intrusiveness.? Nevertheless, people are deciding that protecting the concept of ?life? is a part for government even in this sense, and the increase came among Republicans and Moderates.? Also, there is something to be said about the Proposition 8 vote in California.? I have still managed to find an article that attempts to spin the Prop 8 outcome as some ?Republican surge to keep gays from marrying? and give no credit to the vote attributed by minorities.? As a matter of fact, the entire article is dedicated to snuffing out the African American vote by stating well they only make up ten percent of the population anyway.? Never mind that 70% of blacks voted for Prop 8, and furthermore, Latinos also supported the measure according to a Public Policy Institute poll; this in a state that voted 61% to 37% in Barrack Obama?s favor.?

??????????? Conservatism can be an inclusive tent, we need to find the ways and means to include people that don?t mean surrendering our ideals though.? This is not about ?reforming conservatism? because it cannot be reformed; the Republican Party can be reformed, but the drive to stand ?athwart history yelling ?stop?? and fighting for the principles or traditions you hold dear is a different story.? I believe that the Republican Party can be inclusive, but it needs to remember who the party people are and who the Conservatives are.? We need to be better about arguing our points and reaching out.? Not ostracizing anyone who crosses us as is accused of some radio-show hosts, and certainly not by abandoning what makes us conservative in the first place by pragmatists and Party loyalists.? We need to preach a good sermon, and more importantly, we need to practice what we preach.? If you build a strong Republican Party on a foundation of rights and justice, we can unify conservatives of all races, creeds and religions.? Our conservative impulses are not something to transcend, but something to embrace.?

?

-rj

Up Frum Conservatism pt. I

Conservatism is in disarray; not so much because Conservatives don?t know what to believe, but because Conservatives feel betrayed and marginalized.? This conversation has been going on now for the past two years, and in all honesty, is a bit hackneyed.? Nevertheless, one needs to just visit David Frum?s New Majority and see the constant debate between different ?Conservatives? espousing different agendas.? Debate really rages when the many liberal cowans and ease-droppers that populate the boards dedicated to ?building a Conservatism that can when again? take their pot shots at the plethora of contributors.? I bring up Frum?s website because I admire the man for his intellectual vigor and his general ability to adapt the principles of Conservatism into public policy.

I have been in many debates, in the days of my youth (what I tend to call my Rousseauian days, or less ?lucid moments? as Burke said of Rousseau), with my professors in college regarding Conservatism.? The basic debates, as I was a sophomoric chap hell bent on anything ?freedom? and ?free-market.?? I find that high-school and collegiate Conservatives tend to be such a way; much more libertarian-leaning to counter the hordes of their liberal-leaning peers.? My favorite professor, and the one who molded me into what he calls an ?Aristotelian Conservative,? argued that Conservatives have to calm down on the ?hate the government? mantra.? I of course would respond with a typical talking point of some sort, but he would elaborate concisely by explaining to me the difficulty in asking people to ?vote for my side to run the entity I despise.?? Like asking for the reigns of a wagon, but hating horses, Conservatisms degradation from respect for a government (albeit one that is smaller and more efficient), into total malice for government on all levels no matter what.? Let?s clear some things up, true Conservatism respects government and power, it is this respect that drives us to remain vigilant when it comes to those in power.? We can want a smaller and more efficient republic without promulgating total disdain for government.?

This is where the likes of Mr. Frum, and other Republicans come in.? They can take the principles of Conservatism, and turn them into policies that are much more pragmatic and less utopian than much of the liberal welfare state?s programs.? I remember reading Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again while in college and being particularly struck by his chapter on education.? It was mind-altering for me, because as I was enjoying the splendors of a small state college, I was unaware that my learning (among other things) was being subsidized on as many levels as it was (including my loving and generous parents).? I remembered being a bit upset after reading the book in its entirety because it was not as Conservative as I?d hoped.? Yet, I learned to appreciate those who could use a Conservative foundation to build programs with less adverse consequences.

My disagreement with Mr. Frum has been on the rise as of late.? To many Conservatives it feels like they are laying on the hardened floor of the political structure, gasping for air, and David Frum seems to offer a helping hand while simultaneously slipping a kick in the ribs.? I don?t mean to say that Mr. Frum does not want to see Conservatism rise ?phoenix-like? from the ashes, but his antics have led him all over the political spectrum in recent months, almost as if he were holding a witch?s guiding stick in an effort to find more voters.? It feels like it is not about Conservatism, it is about the Republican Party.? What Mr. Frum seems to neglect in his political pontificating, is that Conservatives did congeal into the Republican Party in an effort to win elections, and the Republican Party screwed them.? Gerrymandering districts was a ?Republican? thing, not what Conservatives advocated.? Wreckless spending was a Republican problem (in an effort to keep getting votes) not a Conservative one, et cetera.? Mr. Frum is advocating a Party allegiance before principled interest in my book.? I cannot say that I am all for that, though I would rather see Republicans win, because the ?good? democrats that once existed seem to be an extinct species (except in very few cases).? We need to concentrate more on articulating Conservatism, and arguing against the stereotype that Conservatism is an ideology.? This, I believe, is what Mr. Frum means to do; but he is doing it in a way that marginalizes Conservatives.? We must explain that Conservatism is a reference of mind, the anti-ideal.? Within the ranks of Conservatism does true Socratic discussion lie; and it is when we turn to Party politics that we allow the slandering to occur.? The ?if you don?t support this then you are anti-American? or ?if you Conservatives don?t support the war without question then I am writing you out of the movement? is a prime example of party over principle and country.? I believe that the Republican majority can win and would be better for the country if they stay true, but I respectfully implore Mr. Frum to stop taking pages out of the Obama Administration play book.? Conservatives are starting to feel like we?re being treated like Obama treated his ?racist? grandmother; you know the one that supported him and his mother as he grew up, only to be thrown under the bus during his campaign so he could look like he transcended racism.? It feels like Mr. Frum is not acknowledging the importance of the movement that brought the Republicans to their most powerful culmination in history, and we do not want to end up under a Greyhound as well?

There is a post of David Frum’s from The Week that initiated this thought.? More to come…

-rj